Impartial Reviews

A real car for the people? Road-testing Honda’s new CR-V
1 January 2019 by Oliver Hammond
A model not immediately on the tip of most people’s tongues when it comes to the best-selling SUV on the world stage throughout a few recent years, Honda’s CR-V has, without particular pomp and ceremony, nestled its way into the homes of scores of sensible couples, suburban families and mature motorists who want a practical, all-encompassing car.

Visually, the new, fifth-generation CR-V has been given the evolution rather than revolution treatment, with new headlights, a revised bumper, crisper detailing and a grille that opens and shuts automatically to eke out economy – but it’s otherwise similar to the outgoing version. A more major update is found at the rear where the light clusters spread horizontally across the tailgate rather than just vertically, complemented by chrome elements, a fresh LED signature and various new creases. It has a whiff of America about it, which is where this iteration has been on sale for a while, funnily enough, now having reached Europe and the UK. In Premium Agate Brown Pearl and in EX trim with 19” alloys as tested, the new CR-V looks particularly sophisticated.

Inside, anyone not familiar with Honda’s creations will be impressed, a premium feel definitely coming through thanks to high quality materials, a smart layout and a precise feel to the controls. The faux wood inserts may seem a bit naff, but EX trim is equipped abundantly with soft and elegantly-detailed leather seats which are even heated in the back, a perhaps superfluous head-up display, heated steering wheel, panoramic roof and automatic everything. It’s a shame that the infotainment system interface appears very old-school in design and isn’t intuitive to operate, Bluetooth pairing a doddle on the one hand but finding a radio station frustrating on the other – and the steering wheel is festooned with perhaps too many buttons.

Space and practicality have always been strengths associated with Honda and the new CR-V carries on where its predecessor left off, with copious amounts of passenger accommodation front and rear helped partly by the brand’s longstanding preference to site the gear selector on the dashboard. It does feel somewhat clunky to operate when required, though. Families have always loved the CR-V for its boot space and the latest model provides a whopping 561/1,123 litres to the window-line in 5-seat versions and 1,756 litres in total with the rear seats lowered and the cargo piled up to the roof, helped by new single-action ‘dive down’ split-folding seats. Honda has really put thought into the car’s everyday usability, with a variable boot floor, wide-opening rear doors, plus sills designed to minimise people’s clothes getting dirty. Storage and comfort features around the cabin are, as always, a strong point in the new CR-V, with EX trim as tested getting twin USB ports in the back, while the door bins are big enough for a full-size tablet.

Driving Honda’s latest SUV, the first thing that becomes apparent from the off is how ridiculously quiet the 1.5-litre VTEC TURBO petrol engine is, proving a glider-like joy in urban situations and on slower roads, efforts to make the CVT transmission feel more natural unarguably paying dividends. The smooth experience sadly falls apart under medium-to-hard acceleration, though, with traditional CVT whirring dominating proceedings. With 193PS available, it’s no slouch, however, and CO2 emissions of 162g/km are only a smidgen over a comparable Kodiaq. As a safe, primarily serene car for fairly tame family duties, the new CR-V is an excellent proposition, although fuel economy of 32.8mpg after a week of realistically mixed driving over around 450 miles ain’t great – although the engine only had a couple of thousand miles under its belt, to be fair.

Off-road adventures aren’t going to feature in very many CR-V drivers’ lives but for when the weather and/or surface conditions become a bit dicey, it’s reassuring to know that Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System™ is there doing its thing, and the petrol version’s 208mm ground clearance isn’t to be sniffed at.

Simplicity is the order of the day while behind the wheel of the new CR-V, with no four-wheel drive, eco or sport modes to choose from, and although the car’s steering and handling aren’t particularly anything to write home about, they’re undeniably quite pleasant, and even on EX trim’s 19” wheels, the suspension handles the UK’s lamentable roads ably.

The ride on twisty B-roads is comfortable, while manoeuvrability is aided by largish wing mirrors and a reversing camera, and the seating position is lower than in some similar SUVs, the latest CR-V retaining its appeal for more mature drivers or those with reduced mobility. It’s the safest CR-V yet, too, which is no surprise given Honda’s conveyor belt of 5-star EURO NCAP accolades and safety equipment fitted as standard. Personal leasing prices start at £267.59 per month including VAT.

A car for a wide range of people, the new CR-V may not shout and scream for attention in the SUV playground but it certainly ticks plenty of important boxes when it comes to real-world motoring and what really matters. 
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